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Lower Back Pain

Posted by Brady Bunch on

Lower back pain (LBP) is a very common condition, with most adults (60-80%) experiencing LBP at some point in their lives. The pain can originate from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints and other structures in the back.  Often pain in the back can be very intense and worrying. However, it is important to remember that the spine is a strong stable structure and in most cases the pain is not due to any serious damage.  The degree of pain felt depends on a number of factors such as the circumstance in which the pain occurred, previous experiences of back pain, mood, fear and stress levels, among others.

The onset of back pain can be variable. In some instances, the pain occurs suddenly as a direct result of an acute incident, such as bending over to pick something up from the ground. In other cases, the onset of pain can be more gradual, over a number of weeks or months and is often related to factors such as posture, work and home life activities and hobbies **.  Pain can be acute (up to 12 weeks) or develop into chronic pain (longer than three months).

Signs and symptoms of LBP can also differ between people. The pain may be constant or intermittent. It may stay in one place or it can radiate across the back or down into the legs and feet. Sensations such as pins and needles, numbness or weakness may be present. In more severe cases bladder and bowel function may be disturbed. ** LPB is associated with time away from work, limitation in everyday activity and difficulty playing sports.


General Back Pain Management

Stay Active - Activities such as walking, swimming and pilates are excellent ways to keep your spine strong. If you are experiencing an episode of back pain, continue to keep active but remember to pace yourself – little and often. Too much activity can increase pain but remaining inactive will cause your back to stiffen up more.

Avoid prolonged bed Rest – During an acute episode of back pain it is important to avoid aggravating activities and short bouts of rest may help to relieve pain, similar to pain in any other part of the body, such as a sprained ankle. However, returning to small amounts of activity as soon as possible helps to facilitate recovery.

Continue Working – Evidence has shown that staying in work or returning to work as soon as possible aids recovery of back pain. When off work, there is a tendency to be inactive and as a result the back can stiffen up, thus elevating the level of pain. If your job is physical, try and return to lighter duties for the first few days.

Stay Positive – Most back pain resolves within 6-8 weeks. Physiotherapy can help to speed up healing and help prevent persisting or recurring pain. A positive attitude about your recovery goes a long way in aiding recovery.

Educate yourself – There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that knowing more about your back pain helps to ease fear and anxiety associated with this condition, which in turn helps promote a good recovery.

Use appropriate pain medication - Talk to your pharmacist or GP about the use of appropriate pain medication for the management of your pain in the initial phase. This won’t mask your pain, but will allow you to move better and get on with strengthening your back so it doesn’t become stiff and weak.

Wear good footwear – High heels can cause you to arch your back more which may aggravate back pain more. Try and stick to shoes with a small 1inch heel to give the back some support without over-extending it.  

Postural Awareness - A good chair can make all the difference to your pain in sitting. Sit to the back of the chair so the low back is supported, keeping feet flat on the ground and knees slightly below hip height.

Watch your weight - Extra weight, particularly around the mid-section can add extra strain to the muscles and ligaments of the back. Further-more, the spine can be stressed unevenly to compensate for the extra weight. If you feel your back pain is preventing you from exercising and losing weight, try doing small amounts of exercise, consistently.

Sleeping position – Lying flat on your back can arch your spine causing the joints in your back to move closer together, which can contribute to back pain. Try lying on your side with a pillow between your knees, which facilitates gapping the joints in your back slightly, thus allowing you a more comfortable night’s sleep.

Lifting/Carrying – avoid carrying heavy bags on back or laptops slung over one shoulder. Bend your knees when lifting an object and try not to bend and twist the back at the same time.

Symptom Control – Ice/heat, gentle massage, Jacuzzi baths, sauna and gentle back movements may help manage the early symptoms of low back pain.

Warning symptoms: Contact GP or Chartered Physiotherapist immediately if back pain is associated with: Accident/trauma; Abnormalities with bladder or bowel; Night sweats and weight loss; Gait disturbance and Pins and needles/numbness between your legs

Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is a form of body conditioning that focuses on developing a strong core by using the deep abdominal muscles to control movement and postures.  Pilates develops tone and flexibility throughout the body and is a great way to strengthen your back, prevent injury, improve sports performance and to help you look and feel great!

Talk on Lower Back Pain

Whelehans Pharmacy in conjunction with Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan of FlexPhysio (Physiotherapy Service at Whelehans Pharmacy) is holding a free talk on Lower Back Pain on Tuesday November 18th at 7pm in the Greville Arms Hotel, Mullingar. Sinead will discuss pain relief, improving flexibility, restoring muscle strength and length, increasing your range of motion and suppleness, when to seek urgent medial treatment and beneficial exercises. Pharmacist Eamonn Brady will also speak. Book your free place by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591.

Thanks to Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan from Flexphyio for information for this article. Flexphysio is a chartered physiotherapy service based in Whelehans Pharmacy in Mullingar. Tel Sinead at 083 1722171

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

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